I joined Evode in October 1962 as a Research and Development Chemist and was asked to work on Pressure Sensitive Adhesives and products coated with them. I had previously worked at British Cellophane Ltd., Bridgwater Somerset, as a Chemist from 1958 - 1962. I left the University of Bristol in 1958 having obtained a Ph.D. following Graduation in 1955.
At Evode my duties involved the development of new and improved pressure sensitive adhesives and products coated with them which included 'Twinstik' double sided tape and various commission coated plastic, fabric and paper materials. In those days the commission coating of a customer's own materials was a new venture and engineering development of web handling systems was taking place. This involved many coating trials (an apt word in may instances!) and I had a lot of contact with Geoff Matthews at Vik Supplies who was in charge of their Toe Puff material manufacturing plant. My boss in the Adhesives Laboratory was Vasek Vohralik ('Vee') and I worked with other Chemists who were there at the time such as Colin Cooper, Geoff Green, Bryan Pease, Mike Denson, Maurice Chard and Beryl Heath. People I remember in the other laboratories include Barry Jackson, Malcolm Welch, Jim Reid, Cyril Lawton, Harry Venton, Peter Ghaut and Ted Akerman. Clive Beard was in charge of Evode Adhesives Technical Service and Bill Cooper performed a similar function for Vik Supplies and the Shoe Trade customers. It was a happy place to work, - the Company was doing well and everyone was helpful.
I particularly remember Dr. Hermann Simon, the Managing Director at that time (sometimes called 'The Doctor' or more irreverently 'the Old Man'). He took a great interest in everything that went on in the company and was a frequent visitor around the premises. Sometimes this caused consternation and a hasty resumption of work if people had been talking or larking about. I recall one occasion when he said to us "Gentlemen, are you discussing chemistry or politics?". We hastily replied that it was the former as we had no interest in the latter! His Green Internal Memo's were things not to be taken lightly if you received one, and you did your best to answer his questions. He had a special feature on the internal telephone system whereby he could give a long continuous ring (and I believe, interrupt existing conversations). This was the bane of the lives of some of the senior managers who frequently had their meetings etc. interrupted by his questions. Nevertheless, I think everybody felt that he was genuinely interested in the welfare of his employees as well as the progress of the Company and he would often ask questions to show his care.
Other people I remember in the offices and the factory were Laurie Powell - Purchasing, John Forman - Commercial Director, (a very precise gentleman), John Mowels - Sales Manager and his lunch time drinking companion Elias Peake who was the Works Manager. In the early afternoon Elias would sway gently as a result of the whiskies he had consumed at lunch time! Also notable were Reg Moseley (Twinstik Department Forman) and his interest in all things to do with horses, and Vin Weaver the Workshop Foreman who was involved for many years with the productions of the Stafford Operatic Society.
As time went on I rose in the Laboratory hierarchy and became responsible for more things. One of these was the editing of the technical reports written by other laboratory staff. The objective was to obtain a more accurate and consistent presentation of the results of the laboratory work. At first this was a nightmare with so may different styles and standards of presentation. I had some tough arguments with authors who saw their contributions as sacrosanct and resisted any change! To cap it all, my boss expected it all to happen overnight! Another problem was the wide variation in typing skills. While a few were excellent and made virtually no mistakes, many were poor and produced numerous spelling and grammatical errors. In those days before word processors this meant that complete retyping was often necessary. The result of this was that the original mistakes were (mostly) corrected, but a whole raft of new ones were made at the same time.
Dr Simon was particularly keen on the overseas aspects of Evode's business and fostered these by setting up a network of Licensee companies (who made Evode products under licence) across the world. Technical support for these activities was based in the Stafford laboratory. This resulted in many technical enquires coming in which were answered to the best of our ability and sometimes this required quite a lot of laboratory development work. From time to time Licensee Conferences were organised so that technical (and commercial) people from the Licensee companies could come to Stafford to hear about new developments and discuss progress. These were very busy occasions for the laboratory staff who were involved in much preparation and training to display the new products effectively. One such conference was my introduction to public speaking and I remember being quite nervous beforehand. I was pleased and relieved afterwards because I made no serious mistakes and managed to finish on time so the delegates could have lunch at the appointed hour!
During my time at Evode I was mostly involved with longer term laboratory development projects which were for "the day after tomorrow". This spanned the setting up of the Adhesives Research Laboratory in 1967 which became the Group Research Laboratory after the Company reorganisation in 1973 occasioned by the report commissioned from the Manchester Business School. After 1973 I became an employee of Evode Holdings Ltd. (later Evode Group Ltd.) and reported to Dr. Barry Jackson, Director of Research. During this time the laboratory was funded by Evode Holdings Ltd. Shortly after the reorganisation the Miner's strike resulted in the three day week and having to work on Saturdays on occasion. This was most unpopular with the staff. However, we survived and eventually the situation resolved with a change of government. During this time the pioneering work on Portland cement impregnated tapes was done in the laboratory.
Another change took place in 1976 when responsibility for all laboratory work was transferred back to Evode Ltd., together with the staff of the Group Research Lab, excepting Barry Jackson and myself. Our responsibility with long term developments continued but we were required to commission the work to be done by the staff of Evode Ltd. At the same time I took up responsibility for maintaining the Group's Patent and Trade Mark portfolio and of seeking out and disseminating Technical Information. In practice all this did not work terribly well and when the opportunity came in 1979 to revert to a 'hands on' role in the laboratory development I jumped at the chance. This meant that I once again became a member of the Evode Ltd. laboratory staff under the Technical Director, Neil MacDonald. During this time I worked mainly on applications of cement tapes including the CLADFAST exterior wall insulation project for buildings and the use of cement tapes for protecting steel pipelines from mechanical damage and corrosion. These were extremely adsorbing projects and sometimes required attending field trials where a house or block of flats were being insulated and getting up on the scaffolding and seeing the problems first hand. Neither project was a commercial success, but there are a number of buildings around which we insulated with 'Cladfast' which are performing well and standing up to the vagaries of the British climate.
In 1985 a further company reorganisation took place (with some redundancies) and I became part of the Forward Technology Group (F.T.G.) Once again Evode Group became my employer and I worked with Brian Ludbrook, Bob Whitehouse, Bob Whitwood, Awni Al-Omran, Bronwen Archer and later Declan Whelan. Our remit was to investigate new technology for the whole of the Evode Group which had by now expanded considerably as a result of the various take overs which occurred in the late '70s and '80s. A particularly dominant concern was plastics processing and new products for Evode Plastics Ltd. We acquired some sophisticated plastics processing machinery to enable pilot scale processing of promising materials.
During this period our work routine was enlivened by a visit from the Princess Royal in October 1987. I well remember the security precautions taken beforehand ( taping up of cupboards and drawers for example). I also recall on the day of the visit carrying an umbrella over her for a short distance as she walked briskly between the buildings with her retinue scurrying behind to keep up!
The final noteworthy event during my career at Evode was the take over of the Company by Laporte in early 1993. This resulted in the often repeated cutting of costs including the redundancy and/or enforced early retirement of all F.T.G. staff. Several projects on which I was working were stopped short of a satisfactory conclusion, and to say that I was unhappy at the time is an understatement. However life goes on, and in retirement I have come to enjoy a different, but still varied lifestyle. In fact I often say that I wouldn't have time to go to work now!
Evode changed a great deal over the time I worked there and the initial friendly, intimate atmosphere of the small company was inevitably lost as the Company expanded. Nevertheless it remained a good place to work and I cannot count the number of friends that I made during my time there. I still see many of these existing and former employees from time to time and we nearly always stop for a chat. I hope for the sake of existing and future 'Evodians' that the Company will continue to prosper and that they will, in due course, have as many happy memories as I have.